Suzanne Fields

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart created some of the sweetest sounds ever to fall on the human ear, but he's nevertheless the latest sacrifice on the altar of Islamic suppression of creative expression. "Idomeneo," scheduled for one of Berlin's famous opera houses this season, was called off because the security people determined there was an unacceptable risk of Islamist violence. The opera would exhibit the severed head of Mohammed.

Mind you, the severed head of Mohammed would not be alone. The staging requires King Idomeneo of Crete to wander aggressively around other severed heads, including those of Christ, Buddha and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. But Christians, Buddhists or even Poseidonists understand that you can't kill someone just because they're selling bad or provocative taste. The message of the severed heads is presumably meant to say that "God is dead" and humanity stands alone without divine guidance.

"Idomeneo" was first produced in Germany in 1781 with only the head of Poseidon on stage. This contemporary production was performed during the last two opera seasons, updated to suggest a more edgy modern sensibility. (And to get a little free publicity, no doubt, once controversy erupted.) Christians and Muslims initially expressed anger, just as some Jewish groups always protest productions of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," with its offensive depiction of a Jewish money lender, but not until this season did the Germans think it necessary to cancel the opera. Beheadings on stage might be suggestive and inspirational to certain opera-goers.

The controversy is not about aesthetics. It's about blackmail, another instance of Western weakness to stand up to Islamist bullies. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble spoke up for angry artists, politicians and opera lovers to call cowardice by its rightful name. "This is crazy," he told reporters last week in Washington. "This is unacceptable." Chancellor Angela Merkel called it dangerous "self-censorship." But the leader of Germany's Islamic council approved the cancellation.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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